Our Favorite Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Ornaments are filled with scenes from popular holiday marketing campaigns

As the holiday season is right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to market your business this holiday season. Whether you are selling products or services, the success of your holiday marketing campaigns can help drive an increase in sales and customer engagement. This blog post provides insight into some of the best Christmas-themed marketing strategies from past years as well as creative new ideas that will set your business apart within crowded markets. By capitalizing on proven successful methods in addition to some fresh approaches, you can ensure that there’s something for everyone this holiday season.

The Iconic Snowman

Look, before you judge us for this one, you have to remember that a lot of us had some pretty formative memories made during the 90s. That’s probably why the legendary Campbell’s Snowman ad has such a warm place in our hearts. 

This iconic ad first debuted in 1993, which means this year is its 25th anniversary. It’s been running on and off ever since it first graced our retro televisions, and for good reason. While a lot of ads focus on being big, bright, flashy, and exciting, this campaign’s focus is all about a universal experience—warming up from the cold. All it takes is one kid, a snowman, and a bowl of soup to create a 15 second commercial that hasn’t left our minds in over two decades. 

May this be your reminder to reflect not just on what you have to say, but on who you’re saying it to. Sure, sales are great, and so are benefits, but when was the last time you followed that old adage of “show, don’t tell?” When we’re all staring down deadlines with nothing but dust in our creative minds, it’s a good time to sit back, take a breath, and rewatch this iconic snowman.

Starbucks Holiday Cups

Whether you’re like us and you waste away a good part of your yearly income on it, or not, you can’t deny the phenomenon that is the Starbucks Holiday Cup. Heck, they even created a holiday out of it. Even if you’re not one of the thousands of people who stand in long lines on Red Cup release day, fellow marketers can take a cue from Starbs on how to create a hell of a lot of hype.

It’s hard to remember a time when Starbucks didn’t have its signature red cup. In fact, some of us weren’t even born when the first one came out. The coffee chain debuted its first holiday cup in 1997, but it was more of a purple color. Then, in 1999 they switched to red and haven’t looked back. 

So, what makes it so special? Why do people line up out the door on the first day the cups are available? There are a couple of things at play here, and this is where the lessons come in. 

  • Making it exclusive. Not because of who can get the red cups, but when. You can only order a drink with one of the signature cups around the holidays, so the rest of the year it allows Starbucks to build up hype surrounding what the next design will be.
  • Switching up the design. Although Starbucks keeps the same candy apple red, the design changes year to year. Again, this allows Starbucks to add a sense of mystery and build excitement around what the new design might be.
  • Selfie time! What do people do when they first get the new holiday cup? They post about it. I know we had dozens of coffee pics in our newsfeed this year. But what they are really doing here is fostering a trend, something people don’t want to feel left out of.
  • A trend you can rely on. The years may pass, but Starbucks Holiday cups remain. Because they’ve been doing it since the 90s, this marketing tactic has taken on a life of its own. They’ve been able to turn it into a tradition.

What can fellow marketers learn from all this you may ask? We think it all boils down to getting people on board with your brand. Starbucks has built such a strong brand through tactics like these, that holding a Starbucks cup in your hand is essentially a personality trait. But anybody can make their product or service feel unique and exclusive if they have strong enough messaging and good enough tactics to promote it.

Socks Aren’t Always Basic

We’ve all gotten our dad a pair of socks for Christmas, and if you haven’t, you’re probably lying. Sure, socks can be a simple gift with no thought behind it. However, there’s also the opportunity for something basic to tell a deeper story, and Macy’s capitalized on that with their In Dad’s Shoes commercial a couple of years ago.

It starts off with a girl wondering what to get her dad for the holidays before literally stepping into his shoes, going through the day as her father, and realizing all he does and all the places he goes. This realization leads her to (you guessed it) socks.

Centered on empathy and thoughtfulness, this campaign exemplifies that you don’t need to have the biggest gift under the tree or break the bank to show your love. Sometimes a pair of socks truly is the perfect gift. So, instead of grasping at straws and trying to find the showstopper of your next campaign, lean towards authenticity and the basics that we often take for granted.

Santa Bear

As children growing up in the 80s, some of us dreaded getting dragged along by our parents on Christmas shopping trips. The bustling malls during the busiest time of the year seemed never-ending, as we scoured every store in search of the perfect presents. However, there was one store that somehow made it all worth it: Hudson’s. And do you know why? They had the most brilliant holiday marketing scheme: Santa Bear.

Back in 1985, the CEO of Dayton Hudson was determined to attract more shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The solution? An adorable, fuzzy white bear donning a winter hat and scarf, hailing from the North Pole and assisting Santa himself. Every child longed to have one. 

Each year, Hudson’s would put up spectacular displays with a towering pile of bears waiting to find their forever homes. And to keep things exciting, a new Santa Bear would be introduced annually, with the addition of Miss Bear at one point. The demand was astonishing, with 400,000 bears selling out within a mere two hours after Thanksgiving one year. The craze was so immense that it led to the creation of a holiday cartoon, cereal, books, and much more. This tradition continued from 1985 to 2005.

The memories of those magical Hudson’s Santa Bears still bring a smile to our faces, reminding us of the joy and wonder of the holiday season.

Spotify Wrapped

Some brands seem to neglect the fact that the holidays include New Years. Spotify has taken over this dropoff in marketing as their moment to shine. And the thing is, they barely have to advertise. Users do most of the work for them. Don’t take it from us. On January 1st, searches for ‘Spotify Wrapped’ hit peak popularity. 

If you haven’t heard of Spotify Wrapped, we first suggest you get out from under your rock. But since it is the holidays, we’ll explain. The streaming service collects your listening data throughout the year and presents it to you in the most delightful way. 

Your top artists, most listened to songs, number of hours, favorite genres and more are all laid out in front of you. If you’re extra special you might even be Taylor Swift’s top 1% of listeners. Every year the theme is a little different, but the design is always the envy of all marketers. 

The most genius part about this is that everybody wants to share their wrapped. It makes them feel special, unique, nostalgic about the year they’ve had and hopeful for the year ahead. All at once. Of course, the platform makes it easy to share with easily exportable versions to stories across all different platforms. And then you can keep a playlist from that year on top of it all(which personally makes loyal subscribers out of us, we never want to lose those time capsules).

This is a huge lesson to us all about the impact of making your audience feel not only seen as individuals, but special and unique. That’s all anybody really wants.

Don’t Forget About Kevin 

If you’re a fan of holiday movies (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), chances are you’ve seen Home Alone more times than you can count. Seriously, I’d love to meet someone who doesn’t consider it a Christmas classic. And who didn’t love Google’s 2018 holiday commercial starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin once again? Even though he’s all grown up now, Kevin is still up to his mischievous antics, but with a modern twist using today’s tech. We’re in the era of movie remakes, so commercials like these always bring a smile to our faces.

Oh, and did you catch Chase Freedom’s 2021 commercial with Catherine O’Hara and Kevin Hart? Who knew Moira was Kevin’s mom? 

The holiday season isn’t just about fancy gifts or flashy ads. It’s all about those simple acts of love and thoughtfulness. Whether it’s a pair of socks that say “I appreciate you” or a throwback playlist that captures the year, what really matters is the genuine connection with our loved ones. As we navigate the holiday chaos and look back on these heartwarming moments, let’s not forget that the real magic lies in the authenticity and the little things we often overlook. So, this holiday season, let’s embrace the joy of giving and the power of those tiny moments that truly make this time of year special. Cheers! 

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